20 Apr 7 Points of Successfully Executing on Remote Work
A couple of weeks ago we introduced the 7 Points of Focus during the Coronavirus Pandemic. One of those points of focus was remote work, which most of you have been dealing with now since the pandemic broke. Some of this will be looking in the rearview mirror, but they’re still valid considerations. However, to bring this forward to today, at the end of the post we’re including a link to a brief quiz for you to self-evaluate how you’re doing on each of these points.
1. Correct for Limitations in Telecommunications and Bandwidth
Until you’ve had a key client complain to you about your most talented team member, specifically about their phone’s audio quality, you don’t fully understand the criticality of this topic. We know that slow internet and any noticeable lag is frustrating for your employees and reduces efficiency and productivity. Moreover, if you’re relegated to remote meetings, you want to maintain a positive experience for attendees. We’ve all been on a call where someone spends the first 10 minutes testing audio, “Is that better?”
Similarly, bandwidth correlates directly with productivity. It’s by far not the only factor, but it’s a big one. The COVID19 pandemic has put stress on WiFi performance and speed, not only in the high-rise apartment buildings, but in the neighborhoods. Compounding the issue, communication tools like Zoom, WebEx, and Skype are experiencing unprecedented use. You and your team may be experiencing some malfunction. Having at least a starting point for proper bandwidth, will be even more key in our current climate. Of course, it also means that some grace in these times can be expected, and offered.
2. Dedicated Workspace.
There are a lot of distractions working from home and more so when your employees’ families are home due to self- or mandated- quarantine. In normal times those who have elected to work remotely would be best served by both a dedicated and private workspace. During this crisis, there needs to be an understanding that privacy could be a luxury, depending on whether someone has a door to close, for example. That said, designating a workspace – even if it’s a specific corner in the living room, is vitally important. Once every room in the house becomes a potential workspace, the lines become even more blurred than they already are. Employees need to be able to walk away, and when the work feels like it’s all around them, the work will become suffocating.
3. Establish Office Hours.
Building on the last point, it’s important to at least have a concept of office hours. In an hourly setting, this becomes a compliance-related issue. But even in salaried situations, it helps with accountabilities to the team and separation of work and personal hours for your employees. Some employees may find it difficult to create boundaries when they are working from home. If employees have a dedicated home workspace (point #2), it is easier for employees to step away, close the office door and wrap up their workday.
During the pandemic you may need to be more flexible. It may be difficult for your employees to adhere to their normal schedule with their spouse, children and roommate(s) all being home. They may find evening hours or early morning hours allow them to be more productive. You may want to share expectations around communications going to the team and clients during a specific time frame and encouraging the use of email scheduling tools.
4. Overall Employee Communication.
Communication is so important that it occupies two of our points. From an overall company standpoint, keeping everyone informed and engaged becomes vital. Create an open channel of communication with all of your employees about any challenges that they have working from home or suggestions they have to make it easier to get work done while remote. Schedule time to check-in with your team, whether for work-related purposes or simply a mental health check-in. The silver lining in all of this may be understanding the challenges of your remote employees and creating a stronger team. Also important is mixing in both team touchpoints and one-on-ones. As always, more communication is always better, as long as it can be constructive.
5. Understand That Employees Communicate and Work Differently
The fact is, some employees may actually prefer working more autonomously and appreciate one call a week. Whether your team is used to the option of working remotely or these are new waters for your employees – always be cognizant of how each employee requires different levels of interaction. Some are really suffering from the social distancing and depend on the closest thing they can find being frequent meetings with webcams. Others are struggling with the amount of “face-to-face” time that is currently happening. Non-verbal cues that body language provides are lost in Slack Channels, phone calls, and emails. It is easy for misunderstandings to arise when we are not able to pop into someone’s office for clarification or when you run into someone in the lunchroom. Talk to your employees about how they’re handling this new way of work.
6. Catalogue and Beef Up Your Toolset
Do an inventory of your tools (Slack, Skype, Zoom, WebEx, Email, Phone, etc.) and make sure they’re being adequately leveraged. Consider working with your IT team to create a checklist for your remote employees to test, troubleshoot and improve their home network. To the first point above, include testing your internet speed, location of the router relative to their workspace, hardware requirements, etc. If you have the resources, consider having IT conduct individual tests along with an associated tracking mechanism (let us know in the comments if you’d like to borrow ours).
Additionally, if we deem the need for webcams to be instrumental to staying connected, employees need to have the proper bandwidth.
Consider products that can do a great job of structuring workstreams. At Hive Tech HR we use one that we’re really happy with, so we’d be excited to tell you everything it does for us and how you could benefit from adopting it.
7. Think Ahead to the Future of Remote Work
Have you considered what remote work will look like after the crises subsides? What will employees be going back to, and how different will it be? Additionally, how has the technology advanced to support remote work, and do you have a path towards incorporating it into your business? These are all questions that the leading organizations should be considering, and in many cases the actions associated with these answers should already be in motion. The fact is, life won’t be the same as it was before the pandemic hit, at least for a long while. The same is true of the way we work. Whether it’s preparing another contingency plan, or simply incorporating more remote work roles into your business as usual, the time is now to be thinking about it.
Again, life is all about timing, and so the topics above are especially relevant in the context of a current scorecard. How are you doing? Fill out our quiz here and find out for yourself.